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Genetic patterns and conservation of the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) in Costa Rica

Monge, Otto, Schmidt, Kari, Vaughan, Christopher, Gutiérrez-Espeleta, Gustavo
Conservation genetics 2016 v.17 no.3 pp. 745-750
Ara macao, gene flow, genetic variation, genotype, habitat conservation, longevity, lowland forests, nests, population dynamics, population size, statistical analysis, Costa Rica
Once widely distributed throughout the lowland forests of Costa Rica, scarlet macaws (Ara macao) have been reduced to two major, geographically separated, populations along the Pacific slope. Past demographic declines raise conservation concerns regarding the detrimental effects of population fragmentation. This investigation aimed to evaluate the current status of scarlet macaws along the Pacific slope by examining levels of genetic variation and patterns of genetic structure within and among remnant populations. Statistical analyses using multilocus genotypes revealed strong differentiation between Central and South Pacific populations, suggesting local geographic barriers have historically restricted gene flow between these localities. High genetic diversity suggests neither population suffers from genetic erosion, likely resulting from relatively large population sizes and high dispersal capacity and longevity. However, evidence of disequilibrium within the Central Pacific population infers anthropogenic threats have disrupted natural population dynamics. These results advocate on focusing available resources on habitat restoration and nest protection, as a means to assist in reestablishing demographic stability and maintain the genetic health of wild scarlet macaws in Costa Rica.